As an Arsenal fan, I am absolutely delighted with the victory against Reading after the recent humiliation at Bradford and the subsequent barrage of intense media scrutiny against the manager and team.
Before the match, Arsene Wenger knew he had to produce a performance and most importantly a result and he most definitely delivered. He decided to give Theo Walcott his opportunity as Arsenal’s central striker alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski and he certainly made an impression; his pace, movement and intelligence gave Reading’s two central defender’s nightmares and the clever interchange with his two colleagues opened up the space for Arsenal to dominate and to score goals.
From the start, Arsenal looked back to their old selves; They started with an urgency and a determination, passing the ball round with accuracy, purpose and a delicacy. Wenger got his tactics spot on as Arsenal exposed Brian McDermott’s tried and trusted 4-4-2 formation. This allowed Arsenal’s three central midfielder’s too much space and time to dictate the tempo of the game and pick out the killer passes to unlock the static and naive Reading defense.
Reading did have early opportunity as Santi Cazorla failed to track the run of Pavel Pogrebnyak that almost resulted in a goal for Jobi McAnuff, which showed a small sign of defensive frailties from Arsenal’s star-studded midfield but based on this performance it is hard to see who could possibly play instead, although there is still a worry that Arsenal don’t have a recognized defensive midfielder that will offer protection and security.
But as Arsenal showed attack is most certainly the best form of defence as Arsenal attacked Reading at speed and unlike recent showing’s Arsenal finished off their sweeping moves with penetration. In fairness, Arsenal’s first half goals looked pretty straight forward as they exposed Reading’s weakness of low balls into the box and found themselves free and in acres of space to put Arsenal into a commanding position at the interval. On the defensive front, Arsenal looked fairly solid. Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen were given the task of leading Arsenal’s notoriously fragile defense, but they stood up to their task. They were organized, compact and hard-working, cutting out any signs of Reading danger and playing the offside trap perfectly.
Arsene Wenger’s half-time team talk would have been straight forward: Do exactly the same and continue to play at a high intensity and show Reading little respect. The early signs of this were indeed promising as Arsenal seemed professional and hungry for more as Santi Cazorla capped off a fluent and magnificent Arsenal move with his hat-trick to make it 4-0 to Arsenal.
At this stage of the match we knew Arsenal would continue to surge forward when the opportunities arose but we knew they would also take their foot off the gas and for a five minute spell this certainly happened. Kieran Gibbs misplaced his pass straight to Jay Tabb who slotted a ball in behind Thomas Vermaelen where Adam Le Fondre latched on and rounded Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesney to give Reading what seemed like a consolation. But Arsenal’s old habit’s appeared to be creeping in once again as Arsenal’s defense were left unorganized from a Reading attack as they tried to play the offside trap but Lukas Podolski played Jimmy Kebe onside as he slotted home to give Reading real encouragement.
Reading’s fightback may have been triggered by McDermott’s tactical switch to three in midfield so Reading could apply more pressure on Arsenal and cut out any space that they had been given for the previous hour of the match. There was an expectance that Arsenal may once again continue to crumble but the sheer domination of their performance allowed them to build confidence and belief to once again push forward and put the game out of Reading’s sight once and for all and when Theo Walcott turned defender Kaspars Gorkss and curled a wonderful left-footed finish past Federici, it was game, set and match.
Undoubtedly the man of the match performance was handed to Santi Cazorla as he dominated the game from start to finish, playing with freedom and roaming into dangerous areas and scoring three superb goals. This convincing performance will undoubtedly please some Arsenal fans but still won’t fully convince some of the disgruntled fans as Arsenal will have much more challenging fixtures in the future.
It is important now that Arsenal build some momentum from this performance and go on a consistent winning run to lift the gloom over the Emirates as this seems to be the club’s problem. After their 5-2 derby win over rivals Tottenham back in November Arsenal drew both of their following two matches and then suffered a humiliating defeat at home to Swansea followed by Champions League disappointment, a brief upturn in fortune with a win against West Brom and then that disastrous defeat at the Coral Window’s Stadium.
I was personally pleased with the performance. We seemed more confident on the ball, the movement was better and we were more clinical in front of goal, which was also pleasing. I just hope we are able to build momentum and consistency and get the spirit within the squad high to try and unlock the abundance of promise and potential that this team has. My only worry with Monday night was indeed the two goals that we conceded. In recent years it seems when we are in comfortable and commanding position either an individual error or glaring missed opportunities always seems to strike and puts us back on a downward spiral or ruin our chances of success. So I hope we push on from here and continue to educate this team and work on the problems that still exist and capitalize on the talent we have in our attacking fleet. Tonight, we showed if we can consistently maintain a high energetic performance then we can unlock any defense in the world as long the players keeping playing to the highest standard and Arsene Wenger demonstrates his coaching